Welcome to Tahir Whitehead, newest member of the Raiders. The purpose of this write-up is to better identify where Whitehead has been successful in the past and where he projects to contribute on the Raiders defense. First a couple highlights:
Are you ready for some football yet? Aside from these highlights that made their rounds on twitter during Whitehead's free agency bid, I was happy to take away key elements of Whitehead's game by studying what was available on the internet. One thing that really stood out to me is Whitehead's eye discipline, his ability to defeat blockers in a variety of ways and his versatility against the pass.
Whitehead lines up as Weakside Linebacker on this play. Trubisky pulls this zone read and tries to outrun Whitehead to the edge. Whitehead stays square and maintains gap discipline should the RB cutback or to contain a QB bootleg.
This is a positive play for the offense due to his DE whiffing on a QB. But you can see Whitehead clearly anticipate Case Keenum's pull on zone read and jump back out to force the QB back inside. These are the type of plays that hurt defenses this year, confusing players keys in the front 7 with RPOs and zone reads etc. Its encouraging that when his teammates might have been confused, Whitehead believes in his reads and is the only guy in a position to make a play.
Whitehead lines up as the Middle Linebacker in this strange defense that looks like a dime or nickel in the redzone. This should be an easy run up the middle of a score considering both LBs next to Whitehead are actually safeties. Whitehead keys the RB sidesteps the pulling guard and makes a stop in the backfield like its easy or something.
Whitehead is lined up as the Strongside Linebacker in this front. He stays patient to diagnose either playaction or run action. Whats really fun about this play is the pulling guard is designed to block the Linebacker towards the sideline but at the last second Whitehead makes a subtle move inside and spills the block with physicality.
Versatility against the Pass
Whitehead lines up at the Strongside Linebacker against the Bengals. We see him pass the TE off to the safety and he comes up quickly to defend the route to the flat and forces Andy Dalton to keep the ball. Good awareness to understand his responsibility vs the patterns and match the horizontal stretch.
Here Whitehead lines up at Weakside Linebacker on a blitz. Whitehead loops around to the Strongside B gap and arrives just as another Lion pounces on McCown (or whoever that is). Whitehead shows the explosiveness to be a valid pass rusher when called upon.
Whitehead is a solid addition to this team and can contribute at any LB spot in a 4-3. His addition gives Guenther flexibility on where he thinks James, Lee, Morrow and others fit on this roster. Whitehead has been listed as a Middle Linebacker on the Detroit Lions roster so should be able to man that position should Bowman not return in free agency.